I watch the child pressing her face up against the window of the cake shop. She’s been there for a while now. Nobody seems to notice her and nobody collects her. There’s a chill in the air, but the child is dressed warmly and seems well cared for. I watch her for a while longer and go back to what I’m doing.
I wrap my own coat around me a little tighter and tuck my hands into my pockets for a moment. The child is none of my business. What is my business is to notice things, notice people, what they are doing and where they are going. I’m distracted by the child momentarily, that’s all. Part of my training.
I’ve seen all kinds of things in my line of work and I have a million stories. I’ve become accustomed to seeing people at their worst. My emotions became disengaged a long time ago.
I turn my attention back to the man sitting at the table at the cafe next door. He’s still reading his paper. Every now and then he glances at his watch and looks around. I make my notes behind my magazine. He’s been coming here for days. I follow him from his house, as instructed, and report on his activities.
Right on cue she appears. A middle-aged, non-descript portly woman. Not the type I would consider worthy of a betrayal or any kind of conspiracy. But you never can tell. As I said, I’ve seen all kinds of things. I continue to make notes as they talk and exchange bits and pieces of paper.
The waiter appears with their order. As she has only just arrived, I assume he has ordered for her once again. He either knows what she likes or just assumes she will like anything he orders. Does this mean some level of intimacy? According to my source, my current client, this woman is the current interest – although I would hesitate to call her a ‘love interest.’ She had to be at least twenty years older than the man I was tailing. I skim over my notes of the last few days. Nothing to indicate a sexually orientated liaison. It was exactly the opposite, warm, but courteous and respectful.
The woman reaches over and touches the man’s shoulder. He looks at her, shaking his head while he reaches for her hand, clasping it in his own. He bends his head slightly, kissing her fingers, softly, tenderly. I’m close enough to see the tears glistening on her cheeks as she pulls away and rummages through her handbag. She hands him what appears to be a photograph. They look at it and smile. As he puts it in his coat pocket, she reaches up and rustles his hair, and he pulls away like a child. They both look around and she blushes, looking down into her coffee cup.
I lean forward slightly. This is a new twist. Even more intimate, yet tinged with a sadness and softness I can’t quite fathom. This is not a normal tryst, if it is at all. I try not to let feelings override my scribbling. This is just a job. I only have a few hours to go, and then it will be over.
Then the woman drops her handbag, and it’s contents scatter onto the ground. People stare at them above their designer sunglasses as pieces of paper fly in all directions, wafting away in the breeze and out of reach. Their faces are momentarily obscured as they both dive under the table to retrieve her belongings. I strain to see what has been dropped that can be so important, until they both look up frantically in my direction. I sink further into my magazine. Have they seen me? They don’t even know who I am.
He moves sharply, but she shakes her head and pulls him back into his seat. They settle for a moment, while she smooths down her jacket and dries her eyes. A waiter appears from nowhere and points to the pieces of paper, now miraculously moving in my direction. I turn my head in the other way, pretending an interest in a pair of swans at the lake’s edge, keeping an eye on them behind my sunglasses. The man shakes his head while handing the waiter a few bills and placing a few more on the collection plate. The waiter smiles broadly, attention so obviously diverted, and disappears back into the doorway. My mind is racing. Opportunity is knocking as the papers blow into the bushes around me, and along the water’s edge. I don’t move. I wait and watch as they stand up and watch me. And they are watching me now, possibly waiting for me to move away. The papers are so close I can almost touch them. I decide to sit for awhile to see what happens. What could possibly be so important in these few pieces of paper that they don’t even want a waiter see?